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Ingram-Sernoff v. Dollar Rent A Car

July 23, 2009

LILLIAN B. INGRAM-SERNOFF, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DOLLAR RENT A CAR, INC., DEFENDANT, AND WILLIAM C. OWENS, AND JOSEPH M. RIBECCA, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, L-9018-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 11, 2009

Before Judges Reisner and Alvarez.

This is an appeal from a jury verdict finding that plaintiff Lillian B. Ingram-Sernoff had no cause of action for damages against defendants William C. Owens and Joseph M. Ribecca*fn1 for personal injuries suffered as a result of a motor vehicle accident. We affirm.

The trial of this matter ended on June 12, 2008, with the jury's verdict that plaintiff's injuries were not "proximately caused by the October 14, 2003 motor vehicle accident." Because plaintiff's vehicle was rear-ended by Ribecca's vehicle, which was rear-ended by Owens' vehicle, liability was stipulated. The matter was tried solely as to damages. On July 21, 2008, the trial judge denied plaintiff's motion for a new trial. This appeal followed.

When the accident occurred on October 14, 2003, plaintiff declined medical treatment at the scene. Her vehicle suffered only slight damage. She was wearing her seatbelt at the time. At trial, plaintiff testified that she attempted to see her family doctor the day after the accident because she felt generalized soreness and was suffering from a headache, but was unable to obtain an appointment. On October 16, 2003, she went to a hospital emergency room complaining of a headache and generalized body pain.

Approximately one month later, plaintiff consulted with an orthopedist due to pain in both knees and her left shoulder. She was prescribed physical therapy for several months, which, she testified, slightly improved her range of motion.

On May 16, 2006, plaintiff consulted with another orthopedist, Dr. Barry S. Gleimer, who performed arthroscopic surgery on her left shoulder and administered pain-relieving injections to both knees. It was his opinion that plaintiff suffered chondromalacia patella in both knees and impingement of the rotator cuff of the left shoulder caused by trauma during the accident.

In contrast to Dr. Gleimer's deposition and expert opinion, Dr. Marc L. Kahn, Owen's orthopedic expert, opined that the medical conditions from which plaintiff suffered actually resolved after the accident, and that her subsequent shoulder problems were a product of degenerative disease unrelated to the accident. The jury was shown the videotaped depositions of both experts.

During the trial, defendants called into question plaintiff's credibility by emphasizing to the jury the significant differences in expert opinions, and the "timeline," including plaintiff's initial delay in obtaining medical treatment and the two-year lapse between May 2004 and May 2006, in which she received no medical treatment.

Plaintiff, a trained nurse and part-time aerobics instructor, had actually been captured on film teaching a water aerobics class by an insurance investigator playing the part of a potential gym member. The activities depicted on film did not appear to be limited by plaintiff's claimed injuries, even though the filming occurred prior to her shoulder surgery. When deposed prior to becoming aware of the existence of this film, plaintiff testified that her movements in the aerobics classes were restricted by her pain. The jury was shown the video.

Plaintiff's contentions on ...


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